I love glimpses into other people’s lives.  Especially their interiors.  So when yesterday my friend Eva and I spent an exhilarating day in London enjoying lunch with friends on board The World I was in heaven.

There’s no denying the beauty and buzz of London.  Especially when you spend much of it on water with fabulous hosts, glorious weather and a wonderful group of friends.

Fun, quirky interiors inspire me and trump timeless elegance and formality every time.  Our hosts’ apartment was packed full of quirky, contemporary art and sculpture that made the space feel large despite being compact.  By far my favourite ornament was a large wooden painted penguin so realistic I half expected it to waddle in amongst us as we chatted before diving off the balcony to swim with friends.

I can only imagine the freedom such a lifestyle brings but am glad to see that art, design and friendship play a vital part in a liberating approach to life and business that happily accommodates many months at sea.

It’s refreshing meeting successful people who’ve taken a different approach.  To friendship, to living harmoniously with their soul mate, to balancing motherhood with work commitments, to business and relationships in general.  Taking a different approach takes confidence, something women often lack, so meeting brilliant, confident women and the men confident enough to be married to and do business with them was an invigorating delight.

Perhaps secretly we’re all pirates stealing moments of pleasure with our children, seeking love, adventure and work related riches that are ours for the taking if only we were brave enough to fight for what we need in life and the people we believe in.

I’ve not figured out how I’m going to create an interior styling business based in Edinburgh that works with international London clients but I’m more inspired and determined to than ever.

I met a very interesting gentlemen doing something different and exciting in high end property.  At the heart of his business model was putting client’s interest first and doing everything he could to satisfy clients’ commercial goals whilst surpassing the service offering of the traditional estate agency model.

It’s amazing how few businesses put client service at the heart of their business.  Those that do soon realize this not only leads to happy clients, but managed carefully, is a recipe for success.

Once lost, trust can rarely be recovered.  This is as true in business as it is in personal relationships.  Financial services learnt this the hard way, so it’s always interesting to meet people intelligent enough to seek reward for clients by eschewing outdated business models and doing things very differently.

As a child my mother always instilled the importance of writing thank you cards.  I had a truly wonderful time in London but as I sit here choosing a card to send my hosts, I can’t help wondering. “How do you send a thank you note to friends who live on board a boat?”




I need a holiday.  I need it now.  And aside from selling drugs, selling myself or going on holiday with my ex again I don’t care how I pay for it.

This morning I woke up all guns blazing.  My credit card bill alone was enough to shock me into action but freak sunshine and cold weather also played a part.

I have great survival instincts and love the ingenuity that goes with being an entrepreneur.  I also hate confinement, incarceration and sitting at a desk.

I’m always happiest on the move with few possessions. I loved the movie Heat because it stars 3 of my favourite actors chasing something that eludes them.  It also has a scene that encapsulates my life.  Particularly the line by Robert de Niro’s character . . .

“Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner” (Robert de Niro’s character, Heat).   

It’s tricky balancing that sentiment with young children who need me all the time.  In their loving adoring eyes I’m irreplaceable.  I fear for them daily and am well aware what they’ll become if I’m not around to remind them what’s important.  But I have to work when they’re not with me.  This is no simple case of Fight or Flight.  I need to find a way of doing both.

I’m used to making sacrifices.  But sacrifice in motherhood is different. I sacrificed a lot to be with their father but I could never be the woman who stayed for the sake of the children. I know my worth both as an individual and human being and won’t allow anyone to treat me daily as if I’m worthless.

I hate doing nothing.  Way too many people sit around in offices doing that already.  A good few more make serious money at it.  I spend whatever I make because I like the challenge of having it all to do over and over again.  Daily risks and challenges make me feel alive.  I’ve never wanted a marriage that offered certainty or forever especially if that certainty was financial security based on living and working for a financial services firm in Edinburgh for the rest of my life.

I don’t like risking my life, my sanity or my home. But I do like the idea of waking up every day feeling I have a new business and a new challenge even if I don’t have a new man.

Listening to Ranald MacDonald’s entrepreneurial advice on Jazz FM’s business hour I’m inspired by the words “Money follows great endeavour”.

I wrote the lyrics to this song on Saturday and am off to London on Wednesday to consider various options.

This week saw the publication of the Richest people in Sport and after worrying about my son’s pronouncement 2 weeks ago that I needn’t worry about money because “when we’re tennis stars we’ll buy you a house” I now think this isn’t as ludicrous a scenario as it sounds.

But having someone else buy a house that suits their needs not yours isn’t freedom.  It’s how I ended up with Woodlands, a place I’d dearly love to sell.  Beauty isn’t everything.  Freedom is.


Hard work rarely leads to riches.  But all work no matter how tedious helps pass the time of day.

I used to know a lot of wealthy people.  None of them did anything you’d call hard let alone work so this week I put my trust in human agency, forgot I’m technically insolvent and booked the best interiors photographer in Scotland to shoot my home.  The chat alone was money well spent.

If I were rich I’d be discreet about it. I’d own one small apartment, have little else that needed upkeep, work less, take off more and go on adventures with my children. I’d also be generous.  Anonymously.  So I could sleep at night.

Anonymity is hugely underrated.  So is generosity.

In my experience people either inherit vast wealth or steal it.  But then I used to work in financial services and briefly worked for Russian oligarchs.

Neither of these scenarios make for well adjusted individuals or families happy with their lot.  Blatent latent familial discontent amongst relations carving up ancestral wealth makes tense dinner conversation.  So does working in financial services when you feel the sly and the privileged somehow privatised imaginary wealth that led to crippling public debt.

Most people expect others to have more than them.  Few posses the grace or generosity to smile at anothers gain.

I applaud creative entrepreneurship and the guilt selflessness that leads to charitable donations.  But sometimes the only generosity needed is a smile or casual ‘Hello”.

I’ve never understood celebrity attention seeking.  I love the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode showcasing Ted Danson’s fake philanthropy/faux anonymity in The Anonymous Donor.

It’s hard not to judge those you once loved harshly and unfairly. Harder still taking responsibility for your follies, past mistakes and loved one’s woes.

This week I learnt reluctantly that rich men often cheat.  Apparently their wives put up with it because they have too good a deal.  I don’t know why I wasn’t like that.  Or why I’d rather be alone and broke working for a living with crippling debts than married to a wealthy man that controls and pays for everything.  I guess when freedom’s more important to you, money gets you everything but the girl.


Most days, no matter how bad my week I find joy in life’s imperfections. I lived with a supreme narcissist and his mother, for years so am deeply suspicious of perfection – in life, interiors, and especially in adults.

Perfectionism excludes the majority, restricts the practical use and pursuits of the minority who attain it and is basically only ever a good look on children unaware of their power to mesmerise. For everyone else it’s suicide.

Achieving perfection is overrated, because it usually involves neglecting the basics. The fact that people like to wear clothes they can breathe in, prefer practical chairs they can sit on, and eat in restaurants that don’t poison them. Who cares about the deliciousness of the fatted calf or duck if kitchen hands are dirty and unwittingly poisoning patrons? Who needs 2 for the price of 1 or clubcard points when 100% beef means 10% horsemeat?

No adult body’s perfect. Neither’s their brand or career.

Truly brilliant creatives achieve brilliance inadvertently without trying. Ask any artist, writer or poet, mathematician or legendary sporting great. Much of their career is spent chasing the perfection they achieved without realising just how they did it.

Most perfectionists are hacks just like the rest of us regaling a devoted audience with flashes of brilliance their PR and advertising agents draw our attention to.

I may only ever write one great sentence, design two decent pieces of lighting and demo three hummable songs. But when I do I’ll reflect and learn from my shortcomings without drawing too much attention to them, in much the same way I lovingly correct my children.

Poul Henningsen artichole light (replica)

These are not my lights. I just stole them.

I started Nordic Black with a clear vision.  To be a simple lifestyle alternative to the White Company beloved of my peers.  I wanted to be online only and wholesale. Gillian Tett’s article in the Weekend FT magazine on how J Brand started out with the sole intention of designing flattering jeans reminds me how far I’ve gone adrift.

My intention was always to be small with 6-10 good products so I could find my creative niche.  I didn’t want to run a business where I’d be managing lots of people.  I wanted to collaborate with others.  Me doing my thing to the best of my ability and them doing theirs.  This is proving much more difficult than I thought.

Despite starting with a strong brand identity and tagline, my best intentions have been hijacked by the business priorities of others and it’s all my own fault. It’s time to stop the rot and get firmly back on track.

This morning I unwittingly annoyed the woman who inspired me.  No one wants to listen to the agnostic who’s lost faith so I accept her advice has reached the limit of it’s usefulness, apologise for causing offence and unsubscribe from further posts.

It’s sad when what once inspired and made you happy abruptly comes to an end, but in life as with interiors you have to brush up and get on with it.

My kids are currently obsessed with Minecraft which has a creative and survivor mode of play.  The last of these involves fighting zombies, spiders and bowmen from the home that you create and I can’t help thinking this is what my life has become.  “On creative mode,” my daughter explains, “you just get everything given to you on a plate.”

It’s time to stop creating willy nilly and launch a focused creative attack.Image

There’s a mirror in my bedroom leaning up against the wall.  It’s never suited its surroundings despite its beauty and being tall height.  “Where do you want it?” my cleaner asked, as she helped me move it from the corner to the door.  “I never really thought it belonged in here.”


I could put it in the garage with other neglected junk. But it’s too shiny and high maintenance to sit there rotting in the cold.  Or sell it for a pittance and hope it finds a happier home.  Or take its awkward solid frame to wherever I may go.

I lie awake at night hoping it won’t dislodge and fall on top of me and can’t help thinking it should never have been made.  I won’t destroy it though. And am reminded of my favourite story of the moment, THIS IS NOT MY HAT.



This is not my home!

I have a grim week of viewings to face this week for a house that will not sell.  I know this because there are 3 other houses in the immediate vicinity that have been for sale for over a year.  The lucky ones have buyers making lowball offers with terms divorcing owners cannot afford to accept.  And so the misery of living together in financial desperation continues.

So when yesterday I packed my children off to holiday with their father,I flirted momentarily with packing my own bags and leaving all of this behind for good.

I excel at running.  Running households, running up bills hills, running myself ragged and this month running on empty.  But until now I have never run away.  Not even when my first husband died 12 years ago exactly a year after our house flooded and left me tens of thousands of pounds in debt.

I often imagine saying goodbye to the furniture Doris Lessing-style in The Golden Notebooks, but try and focus on the things I can control and restyle rooms that aren’t quite working for yet another pointless family viewing.

First up I tackle a guest bedroom.  I’m not happy with the black faux fireplace and paint it fossil, then vintage it with dusk.  The result transforms the room. Instead of completely painting out the black and gold of the original piece I brush over it lightly so bits of black and gold peek through to heighten the faux vintage effect.

The thing about working from home is that sometimes life takes over.  This happens despite me never going out, never returning phone calls and never having people over.  It’s frustrating when the barbed wire defences we erect to keep problems and people at bay fail to let the messiness of life overwhelm us but in the words of Lenin “What is to be done?”

I used to write in an office for a living, but much prefer painting.  Writing to deadline with no music surrounded by people you occasionally sleep eat with was paid hard work.  I thought decorating and blogging would be lifechanging easy, but have come to accept mine is a 3 prong strategy.  Life is one of the prongs.

Most people are lazy when it comes to moving.  I know, because my agent tells me not to bother cleaning all day right up until the viewing. IS HE INSANE?  Properties above £1m aren’t selling. Buyers wait excitedly to watch prices tumble further. Sellers wonder why on earth they ever needed so much space.

In some ways I’m back to my old self gain.  Firing on all cylinders with 3 loads of washing done, the rubbish out, contemplating whether to go for a run or clean the house before breakfast. I wonder if there’ll ever be a life for me beyond housework?

But back to business.  I figure my house appeals to financial services types who only like what they can’t afford. Experience has taught me never underestimate other people’s greed needs.

Wealthy aspirational buyers will pay for what they want.  But only if they see it there in front of them.  Handed to them on a plate. Red Ferrari in the drive . . . keys in the ignition . . . dream house styled to perfection.  I call it buyer’s lust.  Their heart beats faster as the adrenaline kicks in and they’ll sell their children if it gets them what they want. I know this because I observed it for many years working as a writer for financial services.  It’s partly why I left. It’s hard to write repeatedly that your firm’s a meritocracy when partners line their pockets with the hard work of others.

Many people in financial services, some like me who grew up with nothing, despite gaining great wealth by everyone else’s standards, never seem to have enough. Women are well known for succumbing to this in the handbag or shoe department, but with men it can reach a whole other dimension.  Sports cars aren’t cheap.  Neither is prime property.

It’s crazy to be selling now when everybody else is desperate to downsize so it makes sense to go the extra mile and give that one potential buyer exactly what they want. STATUS.  Money can buy you many things but it can’t buy you style.

My original title for this post was “Face your Fears” but that fleeting moment of overconfidence has past.  Like the property market, I’ve opted for realism.


Every business needs a brand.  Every brand needs good photography.  A resonating tag line helps but in a visual age it’s brand image and word of mouth that counts.  Noone believes what they read any more.  But they still believe what they see and what trusted sources tell them.

Today I started my search for an interiors photographer.  I’ve mocked up an ad, written the copy and am in the process of choosing a magazine to advertise.

Interiors are tricky things to shoot.  Especially when your target market’s aspirational men too busy working to read magazines or decorate their interiors.

Then there’s the subject matter – a fern that’s clearly seen better days, upcycled vintage lighting shot in a dark, north facing room.

As a former copyrighter I didn’t struggle too much on that front, but choosing an image is proving difficult.  I also have to make my blog, website, business card and advert one seamless entity.

Life would be so much simpler if I just had a shop. But not half as entertaining.



I’d be rid of everything in life that’s weighing me down right now.  My house, the stuff in it, all the people in my life, except my children.  There’d be nothing but a clean slate.  And I wouldn’t be here anymore.

Life in gilded cages, prompts you to escape.  What am I escaping?  Everything.  When will I leave? Tomorrow.  Will I return?  Why would I? I watch the birds smash into the glass and vow to keep the windows open in future.  Some birds never learn.  I like to think I’m smarter than my captors.